The very first thing Arianna does daily when she arrives at work is change her garments. As a nanny in New York City, she doesn’t put on a uniform, however the mom of the dual infants she cares for has requested her to vary right into a clear outfit after she travels by subway to their condo in Manhattan.
The requirement, by itself, doesn’t really feel unreasonable given the way in which COVID-19 ravaged New York City. But that isn’t the one requirement demanded of Arianna, who’s utilizing a pseudonym for worry of retaliation from her employer.
The 55-year-old, who’s been nannying for practically 30 years, advised HuffPost her present employers ask her to get COVID-19 checks with out reimbursement, constantly ask the place she’s been and who she’s been with on the weekends, and have compelled her to take unpaid trip time when she refuses to journey with the household regardless of coronavirus security tips. What’s worse is her employers don’t apply the identical commonplace of security and scrutiny to themselves that they count on of Arianna.
When she proposed a contract between her and her employers to agree in writing to the hours she is going to work, her trip days and COVID-19 security laws, the spouse and husband repeatedly ignored her.
“When they shut down the idea of a contract, it made me feel like they had no respect for me,” she mentioned. “They are only worried about what they want to do. They don’t care about my concerns or safety.”
And as an undocumented immigrant, Arianna typically appears like she has no different alternative than to adjust to their calls for.
Arianna isn’t the one nanny struggling behind closed doorways due to COVID-19. With many mother and father working from residence, youngsters studying remotely and the fixed menace of publicity, the demand for at-home youngster care has skyrocketed. Although New York state affords extra authorized laws for home employees than exist on the federal degree, the protections for nannies are nonetheless restricted. Child care is usually dismissed as not actual work as a result of it takes place within the residence, and the vast majority of that work is finished by girls.
Combined with the shortage of COVID-19 laws for home employees, nannies like Arianna are compelled to work in unsafe situations with little to no oversight.
“The power imbalance here is rooted in the employer’s false belief that their home is not a workplace. And as such they believe they don’t have to abide by any rules,” mentioned Rocio Avila, a workers legal professional and state coverage director on the National Domestic Workers Alliance. “As a result, they don’t necessarily practice what perhaps they expect from their own employers.”
Grueling Work, No Breaks
HuffPost spoke with three nannies, together with Arianna, who work and dwell in New York City. All three mentioned their employers demand full transparency from them throughout COVID-19, typically violating their privateness: “Where were you this weekend?” “Who have you seen in the last week?” “You’re not getting together with family for the holidays, right?” And whereas communication is sweet, it’s typically a one-way road.
“It feels like I have to give a full disclosure of everything, step by step, where I’m going and who I’m seeing. It’s weird because I can’t really ask them the same questions. It doesn’t feel like it’s mutual,” mentioned Gabi Menezes, a 37-year-old nanny in Brooklyn. The solely manner Menezes is ready to discover out the place her employers have been and in the event that they’ve been abiding by COVID-19 security protocols is to verify their Instagram pages.
Menezes, an immigrant from Brazil, had nannied for a similar household for 5 years when she bought COVID-19 in February 2020. She labored for per week when she bought again, not realizing she had contracted COVID-19, after which your entire metropolis went into lockdown. During that point, Menezes didn’t go into work however she mentioned her employer continued to pay her a portion of her wage. When she went again to work in June, her employer lower her hours as a result of each mother and father had been working from residence.
When Menezes began working for a brand new household over the summer time, she was anticipated to deliver the kids to her condo in the course of the day as a result of each mother and father had been working from residence. In October, Menezes contracted COVID-19 once more, which she suspects occurred whereas working or commuting there by subway. While she quarantined for 2 weeks, her employers paid her for one week however not the second week.
I advised them I used to be not notably comfy coming in, however they nonetheless anticipated me to. They advised me they couldn’t pay me if I didn’t are available. And I wasn’t in a spot the place I may afford to not go in.
Allie Ayers, nanny
Sometimes, employers ― like 27-year-old Allie Ayers’ ― merely didn’t consider COVID-19 was an actual menace. Ayers has been nannying for a household in Brooklyn for 2 and a half years when she was abruptly let go in April in the course of the top of the pandemic in New York City. She had labored for a couple of month in the course of the preliminary outbreak and mentioned the anxiousness was crippling. As an in-home nanny, Ayers didn’t have the power to earn a living from home throughout lockdown.
“I told them I was not particularly comfortable coming in, but they still expected me to,” Ayers mentioned of her employers, who had two young children. “They told me they couldn’t pay me if I didn’t come in. And I wasn’t in a place where I could afford not to go in.”
Her issues had been at all times “immediately squashed” and her employers constantly made Ayers really feel like she was overreacting about COVID-19. “It was weird because I had this really wonderful relationship with them. They had always kind of felt like an extension of family in New York for me,” Ayers mentioned. “So, all of a sudden, when our opinions didn’t align around COVID, how quickly their way of speaking to me changed. That was definitely hard.”
There had been different points, too: employers not reimbursing for PPE or COVID-19 checks and chopping salaries as a result of they had been now working remotely. Without playdates, nannies had been left with the exhausting job of entertaining a toddler alone for a full 5 or 6 hours. Two of the nannies mentioned their employers threatened to fireside them in the event that they didn’t work on trip journeys, regardless of authorities tips to keep away from journey throughout lock down. Other than when the kids had been napping, all three nannies mentioned they weren’t given any private breaks throughout work hours.
The isolation, particularly throughout COVID-19, weighed closely on Ayers. “You don’t have co-workers when you’re nannying,” she mentioned. “You don’t feel like you have a leg to stand on and that’s probably why I continued to work past when I was comfortable.”
A Marginalized Workforce
Nanny work could be very a lot gendered and infrequently not viewed by society as real work, and the vast majority of the kid care workforce is made up of ladies and girls of shade. In New York state, girls account for 93% of home employees, a class that features nannies, home cleaners and different caregivers. Despite representing solely 13% of the New York workforce, Black employees make up 30% of all home employees. And 62% of nannies within the state are immigrants, lots of whom, like Arianna, are undocumented.
With a largely unregulated workforce made up of a few of the most susceptible, it’s no shock that racism and xenophobia is alive and nicely within the home employee trade.
“Discrimination law doesn’t extend to nannies. That in and of itself tells you that racism is institutionalized,” mentioned Avila, the NDWA workers legal professional. “And it’s institutionalized for a very specific reason: Employers may not say it expressly, but they want to retain the power to select who enters their home on the basis of race, gender, religion and any other protected category.”
That was obvious even within the conversations HuffPost had with the three nannies. Ayers, who’s white, traveled regularly with the household she nannied for and have become shut with the kids. She felt like she was a part of the household. Arianna, who’s a Black undocumented immigrant, mentioned her expertise as a nanny has been very completely different. Employers typically assume she is going to do different work round the home that’s not included in her job duties, like empty the dishwasher, clear the kitchen or take out the trash.
“If a nanny comes all the way from England or somewhere else ― they respect that nanny. But if you’re a Black nanny, they don’t respect us,” Arianna mentioned.
Nannies aren’t afforded the identical authorities protections as different employees. Historically, home employees have been specifically excluded from labor protections like minimal wage, well being and security laws, and a employee’s proper to take relaxation breaks. Anti-discrimination legal guidelines additionally exclude nannies as a result of they don’t work in conventional workspaces, which means it’s authorized within the U.S. for employers to discriminate towards home employees primarily based on race, nationwide origin and/or gender.
So lengthy as the federal government continues to not make investments and deal with this work like it’s ― an actual occupation ― the direct message to the employers is that they don’t have to make use of security requirements or different fundamental office tips.
Rocio Avila, National Domestic Workers Alliance
“The worker has to be paid and treated like every other worker because they are like every other worker,” Avila mentioned. “So long as the government continues to not invest and treat this work like it is ― a real profession ― the direct message to the employers is that they don’t need to employ safety standards or other basic workplace guidelines.”
To fill the authorized gaps in protections for home employees, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and Vice President Kamala Harris, then a senator from California, launched the National Domestic Workers Bill of Rights in 2019. With the assistance of NDWA, the federal invoice goals to guard home employees beneath federal labor and civil rights legal guidelines. The laws creates a baseline of employees rights together with meal and relaxation breaks, paid sick go away, extra time pay and inexpensive well being care and retirement advantages.
“Passing this Bill of Rights will demonstrate that domestic work is not only work, but work that is critical to our economy and society,” Jayapal, Harris and NDWA president Ai-jen Poo wrote in a 2018 op-ed for CNN. “We must extend protections to those who have been silenced and overlooked for decades.”
At least 9 states have handed comparable labor safety legal guidelines to home employees on the state degree, together with Oregon, California, New York and Massachusetts. The metropolis of Seattle has additionally handed protections for home employees.
The Domestic Workers Bill of Rights has the potential to revolutionize your entire youngster care trade, and provides much-needed fundamental protections to thousands and thousands of employees throughout the nation. Arianna is one in all many working to move the invoice into legislation, however for now, she says, the perfect place to begin is to provide home employees the dignity and respect they deserve.
“I wish my employer would be reasonable and respectable to us as nannies because we take care of their most precious, prized possession ― their children,” she mentioned. “They should treat us like human beings, look at us as real people. Take our work as real work.”
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